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Privacy

The Myth of the "Transparent Society" 200

palegray.net recommends a piece by Bruce Schneier up at Wired. Schneier addresses the central fallacy of the "transparent society" idea promoted by David Brin, and also takes on the flawed arguments that attempt to justify increased government monitoring of citizens. From the article: "If I disclose information to you, your power with respect to me increases. One way to address this power imbalance is for you to similarly disclose information to me. We both have less privacy, but the balance of power is maintained. But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with."
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The Myth of the "Transparent Society"

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  • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:06PM (#22676028) Homepage Journal
    We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us. ( If someone from a foreign country claimed the same privelege, we would not take them seriously, right? )

    But once you grant that assertion, it follows - for all slashdot readers who are not self-employed - that your employer should be able to watch you.

    I'm not advocating either side here, just pointing out the logical consequences of the position that we should be able to watch them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If they work for me then I wish they would give me back my tax dollars and fire a cop. The CCRA* just laughed and hung up on me when I asked them about that.

      I'm also not all that interested in knowing what the local police do. I imagine that watching fully grown men in uniform chug bottles of maple syrup and eat donuts loses it's appeal rather quickly.

      Of course 30 years ago I wouldn't have minded having a bit of transparency on Margaret Trudeau ...

      * Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency - similar to the IRS
    • by acvh ( 120205 ) <geek@mscigaIIIrs.com minus threevowels> on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:15PM (#22676162) Homepage
      "We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us. ( If someone from a foreign country claimed the same privelege, we would not take them seriously, right? )

      But once you grant that assertion, it follows - for all slashdot readers who are not self-employed - that your employer should be able to watch you.

      I'm not advocating either side here, just pointing out the logical consequences of the position that we should be able to watch them."

      But those aren't two sides, just one. The OTHER side would claim that no one can ever, without your explicit permission on a case by case basis, record, transcribe, log or photograph anything you do.

      For me - government activity should be out in the open and accessible to the citizenry. Private activity should only be disclosed with the permission of the persons involved.
      • But what about government activity (your social security info, criminal history, tax records, etc) which concerns individuals?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Would that apply to business and organizations and web sites? All of them collect information on us, so it is only fair that we see what they are doing as well.

        Would Cowboy Neil like it if everyone could see what happens behind the scenes at Slashdot? Because he holds our personal info when we register with Slashdot.

        At what point do we cite privacy? Does privacy even exist?

        Keep in mind that the Clintons have access to our personal info, but refuse to release their tax records and campaign funding records. A
      • by Anonymous Coward
        But once you grant that assertion, it follows - for all slashdot readers who are not self-employed - that your employer should be able to watch you.

        Yes. My employer has purchased a chunk of my time and effort. He should be able to see what I am doing during that time. Inasmuch as I am using his equipment, he should also be able to know what I am doing with that equipment. He should be able to know what project I am working on, what strategy I am taking, what the progress status is, and so on.

        If I am in
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by scaryjohn ( 120394 )

          I don't know why you were modded down. Monitoring employees at work is valid and monitoring them at home is not.

          That said, one problem is the distinction between on-the-clock and off-the-clock is rapidly deteriorating. Maybe yours is an argument that we should rebuild the wall. But allowing more pervasive monitoring "at work" without rebuilding the wall between work life and home life will make it erode faster.

          • While that may seem to be a logical continuation of this line of reasoning, the problem is that you're thinking there are only two levels - companies and employees. There's a third level - citizens. Society is ultimately "the boss" over companies that exist within that society. Sot it goes citizens > companies > employees. We can pass labor laws, including limitations on working hours, maternity leave, and even employee monitoring. It boils down to the citizenry deciding for itself what kind of s
    • by bwthomas ( 796211 ) <bwthomas AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:15PM (#22676164)
      We should be able [to] see what our police are doing and what our congresspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us.

      This is incorrect. It's because they have powers over us. Also, our need to 'see what [they] are doing' does not necessarily extend to their personal life, in so far as their personal life does not affect their role as a government agent.

      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        Also, our need to 'see what [they] are doing' does not necessarily extend to their personal life, in so far as their personal life does not affect their role as a government agent.

        Then why do so many employers test for illegal drugs, but not legal drugs, and not for intoxication but use?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Because approximately nothing surrounding illegal drugs is logical.
        • Because they don't agree with the GP's reasoning, and because they want to use that information as power (just as the article says).
        • by Sylver Dragon ( 445237 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:57PM (#22677694) Journal
          Because enough of society has bought into the War on Your Rights...er, Drugs that the idea of using employers to be the enforcers of that particular brand of stupidity is easily accepted. The few objectors are probably junkies who should be in jail anyway.

          I think bwthomas hit the nail on the head with this. We should be scrutinizing our politicians and police because we have given them special powers in our society, and that needs to bring with it oversight. In the case of employers and their employees, it's not the employer's place to police what people do in their personal lives, unless there is a direct effect on their work. For example, if you show up for work three sheets to the wind, you're probably about to get a pink slip; doesn't matter what drug you're doing it on. On the other hand, if you like to get drunk on the weekends, and snort coke off of the belly of a prostitute while being fucked in the ass by a donkey; you're a sicko, but as long as there is no one being actually harmed (willing BDSM doesn't count), go for it! Just so long as you arrive at work Monday morning clear and ready to work.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by bwthomas ( 796211 )
            Exactly. Though, the necessity of being excused from work frequently for court appearances as a defendant charged with inappropriate inter-species sex act *might* engender some concern on the part of the employer.

            Just something to keep in mind. :)
      • by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @02:19PM (#22678042)
        The grandparent wrote: We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us. . . . But once you grant that assertion, it follows - for all slashdot readers who are not self-employed - that your employer should be able to watch you.

        The parent wrote: This is incorrect. It's because they have powers over us.

        Exactly. We need transparent government they have power over us and, if unchecked, will oppress us, whether intentionally or not.

        We can get transparent government because they govern us only by our consent (which is what we mean by "they work for us"). If we do not demand to know what they are doing, then our consent or lack thereof is meaningless. Anything we allow them to hide, we cannot stop them doing.

        The situation with employers is not analogous. Employers rightly demand to know what we are doing on the job (e.g., how did you increase sales 200%? with bribes? how did you lower costs by 80%? with child labor?). When employers want to know what we are doing off the job, they are usually wrong to do so. Our hidden lives cannot systemically oppress the employer; government's hidden actions can easily oppress us.
      • If you allow no privacy for your police and congresspeople, then only people with no interest in privacy will take those jobs.
    • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:24PM (#22676270) Journal
      I don't understand why police interviews are not typically recorded. In the UK most interviews have been recorded for a long time -- probably 20 years.

      After all..... if the police have nothing to hide, why should they object to interviews being recorded and the defendant getting a copy of the tape?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        And in the UK this was codified by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act [wikipedia.org] in 1984 which was a reaction to some pretty extreme cases of police abuse and malpractice [innocent.org.uk] in the 1970s. Like, police knowingly covering up evidence which proved that people in prison with life sentences were innocent. So it's a good thing that now interviews and taped (audio & video) and available to both sides but it only came about through a rare moment of political clarity.

        Rich.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnick ( 1211984 )

      it follows - for all slashdot readers who are not self-employed - that your employer should be able to watch you.
      In most cases, if you're on-the-clock, your employer can watch you. There have been multiple cases of firing because of on-the-job conduct caught by cameras that the employee was unaware of.

      Of course, following you home is another issue.
    • by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:29PM (#22676328)
      I think the difference is that oversight/transparency is required in cases where someone wields power. We don't need cameras watching government employees because they work for us, but because they have power over us. No one is suggesting that we watch the employees while they are driving home from work, eating lunch, or even doing routine paperwork. However, filming government agents as they wield tremendous power (cops on duty, meetings between government officials and lobbyists, etc.) is useful to the extent that it can help curtail abuses of power.

      Similarly, an employer who wants to monitor all employees with cameras at all times is over-stepping their bounds and infringing on basic privacy. However I think most people would agree that there are times when an employer can justifiably record employee actions (with their knowledge, of course). For instance if an employee is assessing millions of dollars worth of diamonds, a record of their actions seems reasonable. One should also note that casino employees are recorded for similar reasons.

      Finally, it's worth noting that when properly implemented, such systems serve to protect both the employer and employee. Taking the diamond assessing example again, the cameras not only help the employer employees who are stealing: they also allow an employee to exonerate themselves by using the footage ("they were all accounted for when I left the room").

      To summarize: it's not a question of mere "employment," but rather a question of "oversight when people wield power."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby ( 1163751 )
        Your example is earily similar to something that happened to my Mother a few months ago. She works the books for a local grocery store a few times a week along with one other person. One day, almost 10k goes missing.

        It was only by watching the video for 8 straight hours that they were able to prove that it was the other person. If it wasn't for the tape my mom probably would have been fired and blacklisted (small town, news travels fast).
    • Provided that I'm informed of it and it doesn't extend to my personal life I have little objection to my employer observing me while I'm at work. After all what I'm doing at work is the business of my employer. And, if I find the level of observation to be unacceptable, I can take my services some where else.

      There's no problem someone having information about you if that information is justly their business. It's very reasonable for you to tell your employer it's no of his business if he ask if you dr
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us.

      That's not the reason at all. The reason is that we're in a contract with the government, that they'll protect us and we'll give up some rights/abilities that we had before (for instance, I can't just beat the shit out of somebody any more for no reason, but now they can't do the same to me). To accomplish this, we've given the government a lot of power, power that could easily be abused. This is different from an employee/employer relationship.

      This is closer to a relationship between two corporations,

    • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:33PM (#22676380)

      We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us. But once you grant that assertion, it follows that your employer should be able to watch you.

      No it doesn't. Public servants are different than employees in a company. Government workers are given powers that private companies don't have, so they demand greater scrutiny. Most people must work, but they can choose not to work for the government if they don't like being under greater scrutiny.

    • That depends. I have no right to know if a politician is having an affair on his wife or doing drugs unless it is directly pertinent to their employment. If they take smack while voting mandatory minimum sentences on smack be increased because they are 'tough on drugs' then I have a right to know. Note that I don't have a right to know what they are doing in their private life or to snoop on their private life unless it affacts their work. If on the other hand they consistently vote to legalise drugs or onl
      • If they take smack while voting mandatory minimum sentences on smack be increased because they are 'tough on drugs' then I have a right to know.

        How does their drug use in their private life affect their work output? In this case, the person is just being hypocritical. Is it your business if I'm a politician who votes/speaks publicly against abortions, but privately has one? Hypocrisy is not illegal, last time I checked.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oldhack ( 1037484 )

      Gov't and her employees are in the unique position to abuse their power - it is *SUPPOSED TO BE* different from corporations.

      I know, it's hard to tell these days.

    • by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:46PM (#22676578) Homepage
      Equating the government's relationship with the citizenry with an employee's relationship with his or her employer is inaccurate. Sure, we like to spit out platitudes about how the government "works for the people," but in the strictest sense it isn't really true.

      Unlike the employer-employee relationship, where the person who is hiring has a great deal of power over the person who is hired, the government-citizen relationship gives enormous power to the one that is "hired" over the one doing the hiring, including the power, in certain circumstances, to decide whether you live or die. It's more akin to the relationship you would have with someone you gave your power of attorney to. Sure, you "hired" that person, but in doing so you gave them enormous power over your own affairs, including (in certain circumstances) power to make life or death decisions on your behalf. That sort of relationship demands complete transparency so that you can monitor what that person is doing with the great power you've entrusted them with.

      As an ordinary employee, I don't have nearly that kind of power over my employers. If I did, I would expect them to monitor any activity that could directly impact the health of the business, but nothing more. The more power someone (or some entity) has over the overall well-being of another individual (or entity), the more openness must be demanded within that relationship.
    • Where's the problem with that? As long as the surveillance is clearly communicated before signing up for whatever job we're talking about, I don't see a problem.
      Introduce a standard work contract in which all factors are regulated absolutely bulletproof. A section about the work hours, a section about the amount of paid and unpaid holidays, a section about how, where and when employees will be monitored and how the information gained that way is being used.
      I'm sure this would make a lot of things way easi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing. Why? Because they work for us. ( If someone from a foreign country claimed the same privelege, we would not take them seriously, right? )
      But once you grant that assertion, it follows - for all slashdot readers who are not self-employed - that your employer should be able to watch you.
      I'm not advocating either side here, just pointing out the logical consequences of the position that we should be able to watch them.

      Whenever someone asks a question and then answers it for you, it's probably not the right answer. The reason that transparency is required with police and other government personnel is not because "they work for us", it's because they are civil servants. They serve all of us, a relationship that is going to be a bit different than your standard employer:employee relationship. Being civil servants, some are granted powers not granted to civilians, and as such those granted power require a higher level of s

    • by GnarlyDoug ( 1109205 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:08PM (#22676932)
      Your employer does not have a special monopoly to use lethal force against you, cannot throw you in a prison cell, take any or all of your money from you, and otherwise use force against you if you do things they or your co-workers don't like. Furthermore you can leave your employer. A lot harder and much more monumental to 'leave' your country and get new citizenship.

      There is no real correlation between the power your employer has over you and the power your government has over you. The phrase 'they work for us' is mostly just supposed to be a reminder that the government and politicians are supposed to be subservient to the will of the people, not vice-versa. If you think it literally means that they have the same relationship to you as your manager/boss at your job, then you have not thought about it very hard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PMuse ( 320639 )
      We should be able to to see what our police are doing and what our congesspeople are doing with the authority we give them. Why? Because they work for us. . . . But once you grant that assertion, it follows . . . that your employer should be able to watch what you do with the authority they give you.

      There, fixed that for you. Scope is important. Just as I may refuse to tell my employer about things I do outside the scope of my employment, we should accept that the government may refuse to tell us abou
  • I don't get it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:08PM (#22676052) Journal
    If I disclose information to you, your power with respect to me increases. One way to address this power imbalance is for you to similarly disclose information to me. We both have less privacy, but the balance of power is maintained. But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with.

    That aside, who says the goal of privacy is to have power over people? If I hit you in the head with a brick and you hit me in the head with a rock, "the balance of power is maintained" but it seems like a suboptimal solution.

    • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:10PM (#22676080) Homepage
      The goal of privacy isn't to have power over people. Quite the opposite, actually: it's to keep people from having power over you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by snl2587 ( 1177409 )

        The goal of privacy isn't to have power over people. Quite the opposite, actually: it's to keep people from having power over you.

        ...and, as such, runs counter to government as we know it.

        I'm not stating my position on the matter, just pointing out the fundamental flaw of trying to have a government and wanting privacy.

        • as such, runs counter to government as we know it.
          If by "runs counter" you means "limits the power of the government over the people" then I agree with you. Arguably, that's half the intent of the constitution. The constitution does two things: limits the power of the government, and makes sure that what power they do have is used properly.
          • by Sylver Dragon ( 445237 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @03:00PM (#22678732) Journal
            The constitution does two things: limits the power of the government, and makes sure that what power they do have is used properly.

            I would argue that this is entirely backwards to the intent of the US Constitution. The Constitution does not limit the power of government, it grants power to the government. Government power should not be limited by what we say it can't do, but instead it should only have what powers we directly give to it. That is the reason we are in the mess we are with the Bush administration, we have let the definition of what powers the government has be changed.

            This was actually one of the primary arguments against the Bill of Rights when it was introduced. The claim was that, by explicitly listing limitations on what the government could do, it would imply that the government could do anything else it wanted to do. Funny thing about that argument, it seems to be bearing out. The compromise was to include the Ninth and Tenth Amendments; which, ideally, state that the list of rights isn't exhaustive and that the Federal Government has no more power than is listed in the Articles of the Constitution. To make life easy:
            Ninth Amendment:

            The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

            Tenth Amendment:
            The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

            Essentially, the Ninth states that the list isn't exhaustive and that the people have other rights. So, next time someone says to you, "there is no Constitutional Right to Privacy" bitch slap them and show them this amendment. Just because a right is not listed in the constitution, doesn't mean that we do not have it. If you really want to carry that "not in the Constitution" stupidity to its logical extreme, you don't have a Right to Life either. Keep in mind that the oft quoted "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" isn't in the Constitution anywhere; it's from the Declaration of Independence. A document which was really just a rant to King George III about what an asshole he was, and has no legal standing in the US.

            The Tenth Amendment was supposed to also be the stop gap on the Federal Government claiming other powers which were not given to it by the Articles of the Constitution. But this may as well not exist anymore as the US Supreme Court gave Congress a complete end run on it by ruling that intrastate commerce effects interstate commerce and therefore can be regulated by the Federal Government. As such, the Federal Government merely needs to show a link between any activity they want to regulate and commerce of some sort, and they can now regulate it.

            The US Constitution is not supposed to "limit the power of the government". It is supposed to grant powers to the Federal Government, and they can go get stuffed if they want to do anything else. It is a huge problem that the perception of this has been turned around. The Constitution has stopped being the way in which We the People pass powers to our government and become a shield we try to use to defend ourselves from a Federal Government grown out of control. My hope is that we can fix this, and put the Federal Government back in it's box; I worry though, that this can only end badly.
        • Oh, I agree, and that's why a balance needs to be struck at some point. The whole issue with the current administration and privacy is that even if they're not trying to destroy that balance -and frankly, I have my doubts- they are most certainly pushing it in an inappropriate direction: increased governmental power over the people without a corresponding increase in the power of the people over the government.
    • A cleverly amusing analogy disguises the fact that disclosure != injury. There is no benefit to mutual head-bashing, but there can be benefits to mutual information sharing.
      • There's no injury when someone has power over you?
      • There is no benefit to mutual head-bashing,


        If you and someone else agree to let the other bash your heads with rocks/bricks/whatever, then maybe the benefit is removal from the gene pool.

    • "Inevitability" (Score:5, Informative)

      by pavon ( 30274 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:43PM (#22676532)
      If you haven't read the book, basically the argument that Brin makes is that the complete loss of privacy is inevitable given technology, and thus we shouldn't delude ourselves in thinking we can preserve it, but rather embrace it and fight for transparency on both sides. I don't buy the inevitability argument, and whether he is right or not, the best course of action to preserve balance of power is the same - to fight to preserve privacy on our part, and to increase transparency in the government.

      However, there are some more interesting arguments in the book. For example consider CCTV systems. Assuming that their installation is inevitable, he argues that we should fight to make the feeds were available to everyone not just the government. This would empower us to watch the government as much as government is watching us. However, the biggest opposition to this would not be from the government, but from citizens themselves who trust the authorities to watch them, but not their neighbors. This was the attitude he was trying to counter in his book.
    • I was more interested in, But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with.

      Logically speaking, if two entities start on different power levels, it makes no difference if they both have complete privacy, complete disclosure or some measure in between. That original offset still exists. The mechanism does not fail because of the original power offsets, it only fails if the mechanism is applied unequally to both parties.

      This unequal application of the mechanism c
    • by xero314 ( 722674 )
      I think this whole concept of balance of power is missing a couple key points. If two individuals know everything about each other it does not cause there to be a balance of power unless both individuals have the same level of concern over their own private information. If one of the two people has a high level of fear that their private information will be reveled when the other does not, then the one who feels they have nothing to hide maintains a higher level of power.

      To truly make use of your privat
    • by Bombula ( 670389 )
      What nutsack modded the parent troll? The poster raised a good point with his/her analogy: information exchange is a nonzero-sum transaction even if the 'balance' of power is maintained because there is overarching positive utility to transparency. The analogy illustrates this by pointing out the opposite effect: clobbering each other maintains the balance of power but has a negative nonzero-sum effect, because there is overarching negative utility to being clobbered.
    • by Bombula ( 670389 )
      I just thought of the classic example: "An eye for an eye only makes the world blind." Perfect example of 'balance of power' divorced from nonzero-sum effects.
  • by supersnail ( 106701 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:11PM (#22676096)
    Only internal incompetance and lack of interest currently stops your government knowing everything about you!

    If we are to have a "transarent" society then the citizen should be able to "see" everything that thier government does. Currently in the US not even congree can see what the executive is doing.

    The 60s civil rights movement has triumphed, we have equality -- everybody is downtrodden.
  • by Apple Acolyte ( 517892 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:12PM (#22676106)
    Those who have nothing worth keeping secret from the public possess very little that is of value in their lives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You use the words 'worth' 'secret' and 'value' in your statement, and I find that very thought-provoking.

      I would argue that what you speak of is value created from an artificial scarcity - and scarcity of resources has probably been the primary driving force behind most wars and conquests and their subsequent atrocities.

      As an example, let us say that I have knowledge on how to build a stable, robust operating system which far exceeds the capabilities of the current ones. It would be said that the value of t
    • by mblase ( 200735 )
      Or, as Gregory House much more succinctly puts it: "Everybody lies."
    • by PPH ( 736903 )


      Correct.


      Another way to look at privacy is from the point of view of property. My information is my property. Handing it over to the authorities is what I'd expect to do in a socialist state.


      Cue the inevitable "In Soviet Russia" remark.

    • by Jesrad ( 716567 )
      And the correct thinking is "I have nothing to hide, so you have NO reason to search me."
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:12PM (#22676114)
    But eventually, the Transparent Society would be replaced by the TMI Society, and the goggles will still do nothing.
  • If suitably motivated , a horrible person can play nice for a long time, and then suddenly "cash in". Never underestimate the power suitably motivated people.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Humans also need dignity. They need to be able to make mistakes. They need to be able to make suppositions about ideas without being judged in order to challenge ideas they do not agree with due to free will, and while this may not be illegal, it may challenge the laws and ideals of society themselves. If someone were to snuff out those who challenge society then it may flourish or fester by people who won't think outside the box (something also valued in business these days). Many times in history we'v
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Millennium ( 2451 )
      People need dignity, but they do not need to be coddled. People need to be able to make mistakes, but they do not need to be sheltered from the consequences of those mistakes. People need to be able to make suppositions, but they do not need to not be judged: if you can't handle a little opposition then that's your own problem and nobody else's. Likewise, while people need to be able to challenge the ideas of society, they do not need to do so in an opposition-free environment.

      Privacy is necessary, but for
  • That guy only got 7 years for shooting a guy in the face on an elevator? Even 14 seems pretty low to me.
    • Re:7 years (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:49PM (#22676626) Journal
      In my latest journal (don't bother reading it, it's a sucky one. The eclipse one [slashdot.org] was much better) I mention that my friend Linda spent sixty days in Dwight Correctional Center, a hellhole maximum security state prison here in Illinois for simple drug posession, while a former drinking buddy broke into a man's home and tried to kill him with a butcher knife (Lance claims he didn't actually try to kill the guy) and got fifteen days in the Sangamon County Jail.

      When they pass respectable laws I'll respect the law.
    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      I agree, he should have gotten a much longer sentence. But in this case, you should blame the cops, particularly Detective Perino, for screwing up the case. If it had been me deciding every aspect of this case, I'd have given Crespo life with no possibility of parole for 10 years, and Perino 30 days for inappropriate conduct investigating a case plus 10 years for perjury.

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:28PM (#22676322) Homepage
    The main problem here is that when you read the original article, the case Schneider gives contradict what he says. Brin argued that the people who have power can (and will) invade your privacy anyway. They already have the surveillance cameras. In the example Schneider gave, the kid with the portable MP-3 recorder was able to fight back purely because he did have his own recording (of what turned out to be useful to him to record)-- that's precisely what Brin had argued. It's precisely the opposite of what Schneider said: "The more power you have, the more additional power you derive from the new data." Without the "new data"-- the recording-- the kid had no power; the police had all the power.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:00PM (#22676820) Homepage

      I still see one possible problem here. Let's say we have the ability to watch/record the police freely and they can watch/record us freely. You might expect that it would be fine, because the surveillance is mutual, but in reality a problem will present itself pretty quickly: The police are an organized group of people with a common agenda and additional powers over normal citizens, and meanwhile you're just one person trying to go about your normal life.

      What tends to fall out of situations like that is that the police would develop the means and methods necessary to protect themselves, hide their actions from your surveillance, and sort through all of your misdeeds for prosecution.

    • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:37PM (#22677396)
      I think what Schneier is saying is that two people in different power structures exchanging the same information (exchanging names during a traffic stop, etc.) does not lead to equal power. Instead, the exchange of information needs to be directed in such a fashion that it negates the pre-existing differences in power structures.

      However, I do believe that his example was indeed poorly chosen. If both the kid and the police had walked away with the recording of the initial conversation, the police would not have had the power to do what it attempted to do during the prosecution: commit perjury with no risk of discovery of said perjury. Instead, what I think Schneier is getting at is that in order to diminish power differences between government officials and regular citizens, government officials need to be subjected to greater scrutiny than regular citizens. In other words, while citizens might be monitored on streets and have their phones tapped, government officials ought to be monitored 24/7 with the feed available in real-time to the public.

      This is an obvious exaggeration and fraught with problems (do I really want to see Senator Larry Craig have sex with other men in a bathroom?), but the point is that equal access to similar data is not enough when the different parties start at different power levels. Instead, data access needs to be constructed in such a way that it reduces existing power differences. This requires that the party that starts with less institutional power needs to be able to access more data about the other party.
    • The important thing here wasn't just the amount of information, but the ratio: It went from 100:0 in favor of the police to ... oh, probably 35:65 when he caught them breaking the law. He may only have had a few verifiable facts on his MP3 player, but they were the relevant ones.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:33PM (#22676386)
    it's how you can use it.

    In the case where the cop asks for your name, knowing your name gives no power in itself - you might have given a false name. it's only when that information can be used that the power is given/lost. When the cop does the PNC lookup, that is when they get power. Likewise, if you ask the cop their name, you have no means to use that information and therefore no power.

    Even if you could record the police (which in the UK, you can't) you still have to have a means to use that recording for it to have power. Unless there's a heinous action on it, the media won't be interested. You can put it on youtube - but really, who cares?

    Oh, and while we're on the subject. Society != Government.

    Society is me, my partner, the people in my road, the queue in Sainsbury's. Govenerment is a group of dehumanised institutions - the two cannot be compared

  • privacy is good idea. there are some times though, where you have to give privacy up. these times are limited to a prudent rational argument for why you should surrender your privacy in limited ways and for a limited time

    i now await your screed announcing this attitude of mine is making way for fascist authoritarianism (rolls eyes)
    • by esper ( 11644 )
      I doubt that anyone will disagree with your comment as stated. Many will, however, disagree on what constitutes a "prudent rational argument" or, even in the presence of an argument agreed to meet that standard, on the appropriate limits to the ways in which and time for which privacy is given up.

      The road to fascist authoritarianism begins when government just says, "We're doing something, but we're not going to tell you what or for how long and will only give vague references to why. Just trust us. We k
  • Not a fallacy. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:50PM (#22676646) Homepage
    Schneier addresses the central fallacy of the "transparent society" idea promoted by David Brin

    Brin doesn't suggest that the transparent society is a good thing; he suggests that it's inevitable so we should figure out which kind is the least offensive and make sure that's the one that happens.

    Schneier demonstrates why the transparent society is undesirable, but this is not counter to Brin's claim. Schneier fails to offer argument which counters Brin's view of inevitability.

  • Arguments like Brins don't come out of the blue; it's not a question of whether we decide to eliminate privacy or maintain it; we already have lost our privacy selectively and irretrievably--to the government and corporations--the question is what we're going to do about it. Demanding "mutual disclosure" doesn't mean that I give up any more than I'm already forced to give up anyway, it means that people who currently use their power to prevent giving me information about themselves now have to.

    Schneier als
  • to the idea of a transparent society than take from it.

    I don't particularly like Brin's work, but it's on a personal style level rather than an ideological level. When I read his stuff, I come away feeling like I've been talked down to by a pretentious twit. I don't even think, if I met him in person, that he is like that. It's just that his style of writing rubs me that way.

    But, what I've gleaned from standing on the edges and watching others talk about his work is that the idea Brin puts forward in th

    • by Hizonner ( 38491 )

      I've met Brin in person. I came away feeling like I'd been talked down to by a pretentious twit. I think he is, in fact, worse in person than in text.

      Nonetheless, Brin is still right that there is NO QUESTION that the "more powerful" side WILL have surveillance, and the only question is whether the "less powerful" side will get anything at all, not whether the power ends up equal, or even whether the ratio stays the same. Schneier is completely missing the point.

      On the other hand, Brin seems to think t

  • Transparent Government and Industry is what is needed. The largest criminal enterprises which create the petty criminal and the extremists use industry and government. The most damaging crimes are committed with a pen not a gun.

    A transparent society where industry and government can spy and know all information about the citizens and consumers would allow government and industry to crush any opposition to the criminal enterprise or status quo.

    It is our collective ignorance and current system design tha

  • by jjh37997 ( 456473 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:11PM (#22677000) Homepage
    "Sunlight is the best disinfectant; electric light the best policeman."

    "Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light."

    "The plant that grows in darkness and wilts in the light give forth bitter fruit."

    Bruce seems to be missing the point. Technology is giving the common man power to snoop on the powerful and the only defense the powerful have is to hide behind privacy laws and other form of censorship. Imagine if everyone wore devices that recorded everything they saw or heard - police would never be able to abuse their power like the cop Perino tried to do with Crespo. That kids MP3 recording saved his ass - what if everyone used that tech everyday? Privacy would disappear but so would many of the abuses of power that Bruce seems so worried about.
  • by jjh37997 ( 456473 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:16PM (#22677100) Homepage
    Technology changes the balance of power..... giving it to the common man. Brin is advocating for people to give up privacy, he's saying that modern technology is making it so cheap and easy for people to record and share information that people are going to spy on each other all the time and maybe that's not such a bad thing. If we try to ban this tech then only the rich and powerful will be able to do the spying..... but if we keep it we gain a powerful weapon against the powerful.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:22PM (#22677178) Homepage
    From whence comes this strongly-felt yet poorly enumerated (writing) right to privacy? The foundations bear some examination. My belief is the privacy is first and foremost a right to self-protection against prejudice by concealing information that would inflame some prejudice or other.

    Yet privacy is clearly a conditional right. You have to behave in order to enjoy it. Do bad things and you will lose it. Privacy cannot be a shield defending wrongdoing. That's the basis for police search warrants. The same or worse holds in the civil law sphere -- discovery and depositions are frightening things as some will find out.

    With respect to governmental authorities, they operate with many legal privileges and immunities which shield punishment and so permit prejudice on their parts. Privacy becomes even more important in those relatively few (but serious) cases where offices are abused for personal gratification.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @01:38PM (#22677408) Journal
    For those of you unfamiliar with Brin's notion of the "Transparent Society," the first chapter of his book is available for free online [davidbrin.com], and there's of course the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org].

    Personally, I think Bruce Schneier is sort of missing the point; if anything he seems to be advocating the same sort of system as Brin. Brin's general thesis is that with ever-increasing technological capabilities, with cameras becoming ever-smaller and cheaper and networks increasingly ubiquitous, this loss of privacy is sadly inevitable. Given the choice of surveillance being solely the domain of government, or the domain of both the people and the government, the latter is preferable, and also has some interesting side-benefits. Balancing power between people and the government is one of the major benefits.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday March 07, 2008 @02:04PM (#22677786)
    Marx/Hegel says that a limited economic resource creates opposing classes: the Haves versus the Have-nots. Survellience information may be one these dividing resources.

    A counter theory says that although a new resouce may appear in one segment of society first (e.g. cellphone internet), demand pushes supply creation to satisfy society.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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